Our cities today could be more efficient in many ways. Air conditioning cools the inside buildings yet pumps the hot air outside them. Concrete and paved building ad surface absorbs heat and inhibits the water’s natural drainage. Buildings are not designed to be recycled. Streets are car-centric, with no room for pedestrians or cyclists, increasing air pollution while making it unsafe to travel and limiting mobility options for people. Cities are also significant sources of waste, and many lack proper waste disposal or recycling systems.
These are just some of the issues facing cities today, yet some cities in developing countries lack the basic infrastructure and services they need.
Future cities must be adapted, redesigned, and constructed to tackle increasingly significant challenges such as climate change, extreme weather events, population growth, and other environmental challenges like pollution and biodiversity loss.
So what would these future cities look like, or what’s in them? According to Deloitte, future cities have the following features:
- Green streets, corridors, and public spaces as centres of social life;
- Healthcare that focuses on diagnosing and treating sickness and on supporting well-being through early intervention and prevention;
- 15-minute cities;
- Provision of intermodal mobility, with more walking and cycling spaces;
- Equitable access to housing, infrastructure, jobs and opportunities;
- Talent-centricity – enabling creativity and encouraging disruptive thinking, developing citizens using a combination of physical and digital elements;
- Use of the circular economy, reuse, and restoration to minimise municipal waste and produce locally through urban farming;
- Human-centred hubs promoting the participation of citizens and following open-government policies;
- Process automation and operations and data-driven approaches; and,
- Emphasis on data privacy and preparedness for the impact of cyberattacks since data will be an essential city commodity.
The Architectural Digest provides examples of future cities planned in six countries. Most are still in the planning stage, except for one in Saudi Arabia that has already started construction. Mexico City plans to create a smart forest city featuring green roofs, private gardens, and green facades. In Telosa, USA, although a location has yet to be determined, their city prioritises pedestrians and bikers.
Renewable energy will power the city, while water will be cleaned and reused on-site. Saudi Arabia’s The Line is a 100-mile-long linear city worth billions of dollars. The city will eliminate the need for cars replacing it with high-speed autonomous transit.
South Korea plans to build a floating city to become a model for coastal regions vulnerable to coastal flooding and SLR. China’s future city envisages one that is built on a hill. By preserving the agricultural landscapes, residents can be self-sufficient and have a more comprehensive lifestyle choice. Lastly, although the plans have been scrapped, India’s city is visualised to be 60% occupied by greenery or water and heavily features renewable energy and electric cars.
Perhaps Australia’s Bradfield City Centre is the most exciting city being developed now. The city will be located within the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. Both the new city and new airport – Western Sydney International Airport will rise from the expanse of dirt and scrub about 56 kilometres (36) miles west of Sydney’s CBD.
The new international airport is set to open in 2026, but Bradfield City is under construction. The city features carbon-neutral buildings and tree-lined streets where the temperature in the area could be one of the hottest on the planet during summertime, with climate change threatening to bring more extreme events.
According to The NSW Government website, it has committed over $1 billion to kickstart a private sector-led development. It is now inviting industry partners from defence and aerospace, manufacturing and logistics, future transport construction technologies, and new energy and circular economy to invest in the new city.
“With support from government at all levels, we are delivering a city for the future with an adaptable built environment; a focus on technology and innovation; and world-leading research, skills and education programs. It will be a bespoke city, built with and for industry using infrastructure and urban design principles that will maximise its potential as a centre for advanced and emerging industries.”
Cities are now facing local and global challenges. How they are designed and built will affect their ability to address the present and future needs of the growing population, the need for sustainability and preserving the environment, and to successfully mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Continuous research and technological innovation can help cities take a lead role in driving social, economic, and political changes.